Adapted by Kathy B. Lauder from the historical research of Nancy Helt and Josef Wilson, founding members of the Donelson-Hermitage Chapter of APTA, and Lu Whitworth, Buchanan-Whitworth researcher.
Members of the Buchanan family have been part of Nashville history from the beginning. Alexander Buchanan died in 1781 in the “Battle of the Bluff,” protecting Fort Nashborough from an Indian attack. Major John Buchanan was living in Buchanan’s Station by 1784. Archibald Buchanan moved his family to the area from Augusta County, Virginia, in 1785 to take charge of a 640-acre land grant called Clover Bottom. When Archibald died in 1806, his son James, who had spent his early years farming this land, inherited half the property (his uncle Robert Buchanan received the remainder), and purchased 310 additional acres from Thomas Gillespie’s original land grant “on Stone’s River.” This second property, which was not adjacent to Archibald’s grant, included the McCrory’s Creek area where James built what we now know as the Buchanan Log House. Eventually James Buchanan sold his share of Archibald’s property to John Hoggatt, who purchased the other half from Robert Buchanan’s heirs.
James was 46 years old when he finished the three-room log structure in 1809, about 50 years before the Two Rivers and Clover Bottom mansions were completed. A year after completing the house, James married 17-year-old Lucinda “Lucy” East and moved his young bride into the house, where the first of their sixteen children was born in 1811. Their home was one of the earliest log structures built in Middle Tennessee and is one of the few examples of two-story log construction still on its original foundation.
The original building exhibits construction techniques typical of frontier houses. Resting on solid unmortared limestone, the half-dovetail notched logs are chestnut, oak, and yellow poplar. The two-story single-pen original structure measures 18 by 26 feet, with exterior limestone gable-end chimneys flanked by double-hung sash windows. The two-room first floor has a 10-foot ceiling with exposed beaded poplar floor joists. A “ladder” stairway led to the upstairs room, which features a fireplace with an unusual arched limestone lintel marked by an incised keystone.
By 1820, after ten years of marriage, James and Lucy already had eight children. Needing more space, they constructed a one-and-a-half-story addition measuring 16 by 18 feet. This addition, with an exterior gable and a limestone chimney, created what is known as a saddlebag-type house. Even with the new section, the floor space still totaled only about 1430 square feet, into which they crowded eight more little Buchanans over the next few years. All sixteen children lived to adulthood, and many remained in the Donelson-Hermitage area, where a number of their descendants live today.
Because of the Buchanans’ land holdings and the number of slaves they held – about 15 – the family would have been considered quite wealthy for the period, falling into the upper 10% of the population.
When James Buchanan died at the age of 78 in 1841, he became the first person to be buried in the Buchanan Cemetery* across the road from the house. His tombstone carries this inscription:
Farewell my friends, as you pass by
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, so you must be
Prepare to die and follow me.
With the help of Addison, her fourth child, Lucy kept the farm going for another 24 years after her husband’s death. She died in 1865, at the age of 73, and was buried near her husband. Her epitaph echoes his:
As thou hast said, I follow you
As all the rest must shortly do
Then be not guilty of any crime
So you may live in heaven sublime.
Her faithful son Addison received a 50-acre plot 1/4 mile east of the family home, where he built a two-room log house (one room downstairs, and one room up). This building has been moved to the 2910 Elm Hill Pike location, just behind the main log house. The move required “chopping” the roof so it could pass under the power lines, and taking the chimney apart, stone by stone, to be rebuilt at the new location. Renovating the Addison Buchanan house included removing the siding to expose the cedar logs and to repair or replace the chinking.
Soon after Lucy’s death, just as the Civil War ended, the property (except for the one-and-a-half-acre Buchanan cemetery) was purchased by Thomas Neal Frazier, a criminal court judge for Rutherford and Davidson counties. Frazier, a Union sympathizer, was impeached by the Tennessee General Assembly in 1866 for a conflict involving the 14th Amendment, but the impeachment was overturned in 1869. Judge Frazier’s son, James B. Frazier, who was a 10-year-old boy when the family moved into the log house, was elected governor of Tennessee in 1903. His administration is remembered primarily for advances in public education. He resigned as governor in 1905 to complete the term of U.S. Senator William B. Bate, who had died in office. Frazier was elected to three more terms in the Senate but lost to Luke Lea in 1911 and returned to his law practice in Chattanooga. Governor Frazier’s mother, Margaret McReynolds Frazier, lived on in the Log House until her death in 1910. Living with her were her daughter Sarah, with her husband John Harris, and Sarah’s brother Samuel J. Frazier, with his wife Fannie (Whitworth) and their son Neal, who later became a professor and dean at MTSU. Sarah, John, and Samuel, who lived on in the house for close to twenty years after Margaret’s death, all eventually died there. Neighbors referred to the house for years thereafter as the “Frazier place.”
Since 1927 the names on the mail box at 2910 Elm Hill Pike have included Payne, Richardson, Stark, Hudson, Keathly, Williams, and Greer, each of whom made a few changes and additions to the house. In May 1992 the property was purchased by the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, who soon transferred it to the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities (APTA), a statewide organization dedicated to the restoration and care of historic sites. Located seven miles from downtown Nashville, the Buchanan Log House is now managed by volunteers from the Donelson-Hermitage Chapter of APTA. Three of James Buchanan’s children married Whitworth siblings, and their descendants care for the Buchanan cemetery to this day.
*Note: this is not the same as the Buchanan’s Station Cemetery.